TORONTO -- Oakland Athletics manager Tony La Russa spent a lot of time last night explaining why he brought on right-hander Jeff Russell to pitch to left-handed John Olerud in the eighth inning of the A's 4-3 playoff victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
It really isn't so complicated. His most experienced left-handed set-up man (Rick Honeycutt) has been hampered by an abdominal strain and Russell is a quality late-inning stopper. Olerud singled to tie the game, but La Russa did not second-guess his decision.
"We have used left-handers against Olerud before and it did not work out great," he said. "To me, we had Honeycutt set up for a different part of their lineup. Russell was the guy we wanted to face Olerud. Olerud just did a great job."
La Russa also could have gone to stopper Dennis Eckersley in that situation. He has gotten four outs before. But Russell got the ball.
"We had Eck throwing, but the matchup I liked better was Olerud-Russell," La Russa said. "I like to start Eck fresh at the start of an inning."
The Blue Jays now have lost six straight playoff games at SkyDome. They lost the final two games here against the A's in 1990 and lost three straight here to the Minnesota Twins after splitting two at the Metrodome in 1991.
The A's have won their last seven playoff games and 13 of their last 14.
Winfield busts out
The home run by Dave Winfield in the sixth inning was his first in postseason play. The only other time he has appeared in the postseason was in 1981, when he played for the New York Yankees in the playoffs and World Series.
Where was Weiss?
Shortstop Walt Weiss was conspicuous by his absence from Oakland's starting lineup, but La Russa had several reasons for starting Mike Bordick instead.
For one, Weiss has one hit in 14 lifetime at-bats against last night's Toronto starter Jack Morris. For another, La Russa plans to rotate his middle infielders in an effort to get the best possible matchups against Toronto's tough three-man playoff rotation.
"The [numbers] figure into it a little bit," La Russa said, "but you also want to think a little bit about how you want to set it up for [today]."
Weiss apparently will start Game 2, with Bordick moving to second and Lance Blankenship moving to the bench, but Weiss' status as a starter remains uncertain. He did not complain about the decision to bench him against Morris.
"I came in today prepared for this," he said. "I wasn't banking on playing. My numbers aren't great. I haven't had a good year. What can I say?"
Cone on free agency
Tonight's Toronto starter, David Cone, played it coy when he was asked by a reporter from Kansas City if the Royals have a chance to reacquire him in the free-agent market this winter.
"Anybody has a chance at this point," he said. "It's tough to speculate on who is interested, and the last thing I want to do is create a distraction now."
Lachemann wooed by two
Oakland coach Rene Lachemann was interviewed Tuesday night for the managerial job with the new Florida Marlins. He also is considered a leading candidate to manage the Texas Rangers, though current manager Toby Harrah may be back.
"I'm all for what is best for him," La Russa said, when asked about the possibility of losing one of his right-hand men.
Rader on A's underdog status
Oakland coach Doug Rader had a logical explanation for the fact that the A's are not heavy favorites the way they were in consecutive playoff appearances in 1988, '89 and '90.
"In those years, we had heavier guys," he said. "We had heavy guys like Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Dave Parker. Now we have lighter guys like Jerry Browne and Mike Bordick. You can see why we aren't heavy favorites."
Cone on NL playoffs
"Barry Bonds and Andy Van Slyke have killed me over the years," he said. "They haven't been heard from yet, so I wouldn't count them out. But with Tom Glavine going for the Braves in the third game, that's a pretty tough assignment."
Carter's eye injury
A freakish accident from a fireworks show sent Joe Carter, Toronto's leading home run hitter, to the hospital with an eye injury Tuesday night.
Carter caught a stinging cinder in his left eye from fireworks before a Toronto Maple Leafs game.
"It didn't scare me," said Carter, wearing pale yellow sunglasses to shade his eyes from the lights inside SkyDome. "I knew I could still hit with one eye closed. Sometimes I hit with both eyes closed."